Field of Science

CSWA: Of Mice and Microbes: Advances in Fighting and Managing Infectious Diseases

Summary: Is it just the flu or is it the next global pandemic? Hear from infectious disease researchers on the frontline in the war against pathogens.
Christopher (Chip) Doig, Head of the Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary.
Andrew Potter, Director, VIDO-InterVac, University of Saskatchewan
Paul Kubes, Director of the Snyder Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Calgary
Penny Hawe, Professor, Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary.
Moderator: Kathryn Warden, University of Saskatchewan

Andrew Potter:  Measles (254 cases) in Quebec over the past few months, an outbreak imported from France and spread because vaccination rates are so low due to fearmongering.  1/3 or more of all deaths on the planet are due to infectious disease.  We take influenza for granted ('just the flu'), but $37 billion cost in US per year.  Solution to pandemic influenza will come from work on seasonal influenza.  Emerging infectious diseases emerge from animals (and vice versa).  Much is also transmitted by animals to humans, directly or via food and water.

Paul Kubes:  (...about the Snyder Institute...)  MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph aureus).  Immune system causes the inflammation that's part of the harm done by infections.  Upcoming:  "Nice videos, but where's the data?"  Intravital microscopy.  New topics.  Neutrophils recognize the surfaces of mitichondria with the same receptors (?) that recognize bacterial surfaces.

Chip Doig:  Severe infections - mortality >30% even in the very best hospitals.  Septic shock is what kills.  Usually from pneumonia from Streptococcus pneumoniae.  Most is still sensitive to penicillin, so why can't we cure the infection with penicillin?  Because death is due to inflammation that's a response to infection, and the antibiotic doesn't prevent inflammation.

Penny Hawe: She's a psychologist!  Importance of social science in epidemiology and public health.  Failures in science communication are responsible for failures in public health. Story themes that attract media attention:  freakish/weird events, moral tales, heroic rescues, grandma was right.  Failure to deal with the subtexts.  (Read The Panic Virus.  Anecdote about Harvey Fienberg (v. imp. scientist, Dean at Harvard) being creamed by the anti-vaccine lobby on TV.)  Need to recognize subtexts ('framing'?) and change strategies appropriately.  Julie Leask, discourse analysis: profit alliances, conspiracies by powerful groups to hide the truth...  Results is that 'experts' are judged by their apparent value systems (evidence of compassion especially, not power) rather than by the factual evidence they present.

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